Scale-free Reaction

Kaplan goes full Moldbug:

Unless some force can, against considerable odds, reinstitute hierarchy … we will have more fluidity, more equality and therefore more anarchy to look forward to. This is profoundly disturbing, because civilization abjures anarchy. … without order — without hierarchy — there is nothing.

Perhaps, in the field of international relations, Kaplan is more Moldbug than Moldbug, presenting an uncompromisingly hardline reactionary model of world order, completely undisturbed by domestic considerations or even the slightest hint of libertarian descent. If sovereignty is conserved globally, as well as nationally, a worldwide Patchwork order looks as improbable as a stable constitutional republic, and exit options evaporate. Scale-free Moldbuggian analysis could prove more than a little blood-chilling.

April 18, 2013admin 24 Comments »
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24 Responses to this entry

  • Vladimir Says:

    This is indeed one of Moldbug’s weakest points. Absolutist concentration of sovereignty in one individual or small group was never the norm in any long-lasting traditional society — all such societies have had a polycentric structure of power. (Back in the day when his blog still had some very good commenters, Nick Szabo wrote some very good criticisms along these lines.) Indeed, through the years Moldbug has been constantly entangled in self-contradictions and absurdities trying to give some coherence to his absolutist view.

    Your observation is another good criticism. How can we have a functional polycentric international law, if each state by itself must be a monolith of uncontested sovereign power?


    Federico Reply:

    Hm, sorry to jump into your conservation again but this is certainly an important area of thought.

    Nick and Moldbug have an excellent tête-à-tête here. At that very point, Moldbug should have conceded defeat—yes, countervailing power defends liberty—and turned to the question of why American constitutionalism has degraded, and how might the doctrine of checks and balances be improved.

    His absolutism is odd, because one of his very favourite books, The Machiavellians by James Burnham, contains this excerpt:

    The right of public opposition to the rulers, the heart of freedom, will not be kept alive merely by wishing—and it is besides very doubtful that a majority of men are much concerned about it one way or the other. It requires the existence in society of a number of relatively autonomous “social forces,” as Mosca calls them. It demands that no single social force—the army or liquid wealth or the Church or industrial management or agriculture or labor or the state machine, whatever it might be—shall be strong enough to swallow up the rest and thereby be in a position to dominate all phases of social life. When this happens, there cannot be a significant opposition to the rulers, because the opposition cannot have any social weight and therefore cannot restrain the power of the rulers. It is only when there are several different major social forces, not wholly subordinated to any one social force, that there can be any assurance of liberty, since only then is there the mutual check and balance that is able to chain power. There is no one force, no group, and no class that is the preserver of liberty. Liberty is preserved by those who are against the existing chief power. Oppositions which do not express genuine social forces are as trivial, in relation to entrenched power, as the old court jesters.

    Moldbug seems to romanticise aristocracy and noblesse oblige, and perceive the Glorious Revolution as a font of dysgenics, short-sighted opportunism and baseness—Edmund from King Lear. Such comments as this speak of deep nostalgia, with which I sympathise but which is hardly a basis for political philosophy.

    Nick Szabo’s Juristopia is more credible than Neocameralism, as rational constructivism goes, yet I found him unconvincing under interrogation in another fascinating thread .

    I perceive a number of difficult questions which the folk, and (assuming Szabo’s usual recommendation, Controlling The State by Howard Scott Gordon, to be the bleeding edge) academic political science do not answer. Only a few are outlined below.

    1. To what extent does law constrain power, and not vice versa? Moldbug argues,

    It is exciting and interesting to see the barons of medieval England depicted as proto-cypherpunks. I agree with you that we have much to learn from this system of law which was so effectively decentralized. But fundamentally, these guys were not libertarians – they were a bunch of vicious thugs. Kings and barons alike. The decentralized legal structures of medieval England were a product of military reality, and they disappeared when that reality changed.

    I would like to see a return to decentralized law. Simply because I think it works better. But we cannot turn time back to the era of knights, archers and pikemen, and I think that if you’re interested in designing systems that work in the modern world you have to be very careful that you’re not inadvertently depending on this variable which no longer exists.

    Moldbug exaggerates, but he may have a point.

    On a related note, as Szabo and Gordon both point out, riots and violence towards ostensibly corrupt judges have been part of historic checks and balances.

    In 18th century England this became a serious matter, and “peasants with torches and pitchforks” burning down courthouses and hanging judges was something that actually happened. If courts were derelict the people, as militia, took the law into their own hands, enforcing writs that by common understanding issued by default. But that process was not always so “due”, and the line between militia enforcing the law and an enraged mob was often crossed.

    I think America is harmed for lack of this threat; e.g. the Supreme Court needed to be taken to task for the totalitarian legal realism of its Obamacare judgement last year. Indeed, implicit threat of extra-judicial violence may be far more important than appearances suggest, simply because the threat is rarely enacted. Do unwritten Schelling points watch the watchmen? Does this mean that “formalism” is inconsistent with effective constitutionalism?

    2. Moldbug may also have a point about the “strong, small state”. We don’t want hierarchical law, but the crude Byzantine solution to countervailing power—make the law so complex that no individual comprehends it—seems to trade one guarantor of liberty for another. It prevents any individual from obtaining sovereignty, but also constrains the general public’s ability to defend Schelling fences. Who can judge whether an authority has transgressed, apart from in exceptionally clear-cut situations like SOPA—no law shall govern the internet?

    3. One also wonders whether constitutionalism ought to be a more fluid process. H. Scott Gordon describes Renaissance Venice:

    Before the twelfth century, Venice was no less subject to internal upheaval than were other Italian states. Numerous doges were assassinated or deposed, and on one occasion, rioting culminated in the burning of San Marco and the ducal palace. The stability that the republic later attained through its constitutional structure resulted from attempts, on the part of the aristocracy, to control the power of the doge, and to prevent violent struggles for political preeminence among the leading families—conflicts endemic in Italian cities of the Middle Ages—by sharing political authority broadly among the members of the noble class. Venice was not the only Italian city that sought to achieve stability and order without absolutism. Florence attempted repeatedly to establish a constitutional political order, but Venice was the only city to succeed in constructing a durable one.

    In evolving the constitutional structure that accomplished these ends, the Venetians resorted very little, if at all, to the writings of classical or medieval political thinkers. Renaissance writers who commented upon the finished constitution of Venice made frequent reference to revered authorities such as Aristotle, but the “wise ancestors” to whom Contarini attributed the merits of Venetian government were not writers on political theory or architects of utopian states; they were practical men of quotidian politics who built the constitution piecemeal, responding to immediate problems as they perceived them.

    So for a long period of time, Venice’s constitution was a work in progress. If America’s constitution were viewed as a permanent work in progress, one might expect her restless aristocrats—Paul Graham, Thiel, Zuckerberg et al—to demand various shards of legal authority, on the basis that they have this many divisions, rather than timidly (and dangerously) lobbying the Cathedral.

    This must however be weighed against the mercy that FDR was unable to enact his court-stuffing plan, precisely because he was seen to be tampering with “the constitution”.

    4. Universal-suffrage democracy is incompatible with liberty. But at this point, how can a new aristocracy be legitimised or bootstrapped? What mechanism, if not the Cathedral or time-out-of-mind hereditary right, would allow only high-quality political information to expressed within the constitutional framework?

    5. One expects men of quotidian politics, such as the aforementioned tech elites, to spearhead any constitutional reboot. What kind of long-term organised activities ought concerned outside parties to engage in: encouragement, enlightened guidance or something else?

    6. How can the undeniable efficiency of hierarchical organisation, e.g. in the military or bureaucracy, best be integrated within the countervailing meta-structure—what is the proper domain of checks and balances?


    admin Reply:

    This is extremely helpful, many thanks. My purchase on this discussion is still woefully inadequate, so I’ll pursue these links carefully. (It probably goes without saying, even at this quite early stage of interaction, that my sympathy with your approach is near-total.)

    Is your planned book going to be developing (and resolving?) these questions?


    Federico Reply:

    Nick Szabo’s blog is well worth reading in its entirety. Unfortunately, although he is a genius on the level of Moldbug I daresay his prose is a little dull, so he gets far less attention that he deserves. Apart from correcting Moldbuggian fallacies, he also has some nice posts refuting Murray Rothbard and David Friedman’s anarcho-capitalism.

    Here is a link post for an overview of his political philosophy.

    I have only been planning to make two e-books: one of Szabo’s most pertinent articles, and one of Moldbug’s best work. But it’s quite a big task for one or even a small group of people. I have no business writing a book, although I may open a new site with a different (non-essay-based) format.

    Above, you say “sovereignty is conserved”. Moldbug uses this phrase quite a lot, and in a questionable sense.

    Firstly, what is sovereignty? H. Scott Gordon devotes a lengthy chapter or two to this question. He decides that it is a concept inherently incompatible with constitutional polities: it sensibly means “absolute, indivisible and inalienable power”, where power is the probability with which one can determine the outcome of a human interaction. In polities with checks and balances, there is no sovereign individual or small group. Sovereignty is therefore not conserved, according to this definition, but abolished as soon as power is divided, e.g. into the ability to make, execute and judge law.

    But then, is power-in-general conserved? The difference between a totalitarian and a constitutional state resides in the beliefs of the populace. In the former case, no individual can act to thwart Lenin in the firm expectation that others will join him. Lenin, however, can rest assured that his decisions will be enacted, because each individual has a morbid incentive to obey him. If, however, say 20 million Russians were contacted by a telepath, and coached over a period of months to believe the voice, then they could establish common knowledge that August 20th is the correct date to mount a rebellion in Moscow. These individuals now have an incentive to disobey Lenin.

    The effect of the telepath is similar to the condition of established, countervailing law—both of the explicit and unwritten kind. Law is the existence of highly evolved common knowledge and Schelling points about how humans determine one another’s interactions. Clearly, the power—ability to determine human interactions with a certain probability—of the highly organised, 20-million–strong group has increased because of their knowledge, and Lenin’s has decreased. So power is indeed conserved, because the probability which which human interactions could be determined by various organised groups in Russia (ignoring the constant power in the rest of the world) necessarily sums to 1. Yet we are crucially interested in the distribution of power, and that can radically change depending on the beliefs of the populace.

    Moldbug uses “sovereignty is conserved” in this fashion:

    Mubarak, while he ruled, was free. Those he ruled were not free, for to be free is to rule. Now the novelists and filmmakers and surgeons are free, for they rule (for now), and Mubarak is not free – in fact, he’s under house arrest. And so it goes. Someone always rules; everyone else is always ruled. Political reality in three words: sovereignty is conserved.

    He implies that the difference between hierarchical and countervailing power is inconsequential, because the probability with which various entities can determine interactions sums to 1, but what he ought rationally to demonstrate is that the distribution of ability-to-determine-interactions—between evil-and-deranged people like Lenin, nice-but-deranged people like aristocrats, and nice-but-deranged-and-dim people like average Joe—is also unchanged, because that is what we really care about.

    Otherwise, he is implying that there is always a sovereign class in society, which collectively wields absolute, indivisible and inalienable power. This may be true in the sense that the probability will always sum to ~1 for some modest proportion of Russian citizens, significantly smaller than the total population. Children, women and unintelligent people have a typically small shred of ability-to-determine-interactions—I agree. But there is a massive difference between:

    Lenin alone taking decisions of a liberal scope

    All of the high-IQ individuals in society taking highly constrained decisions

    Some of the high-IQ individuals taking somewhat liberal decisions, some taking constrained decisions, some being shut out

    …and so on. I note, based on empirical facts, that law—the public structure of common knowledge and Schelling points—in addition to military technology, can determine which of these not-equally-desirable configurations a society occupies. And these differences multiply: in precisely what sense are decisions constrained, and how are high-IQ individuals’ beliefs formed? There is also a large game-theoretic problem in the various nature of “highly organised groups”, which H. Scott Gordon treats as the relevant unit of analysis. So again, “Sovereignty is conserved” does not prove what Moldbug wishes it to—that Neocameralism merely formalises some inevitable reality.

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    America’s biggest Constitutional defect is that the Constitution is so hard to change. Given real impetus for politico-legal-ideological change in an economically, demographically, technologically, and demographically expanding society, the result is either that the Constitution would be discredited or that it would become a numinous document, adhered to the way liberal religieuse adhere to the bible.

    There should have been a provision for calling a convention every 20 years or so, which could pass temporary amendments (ones that would last for 20 years). The result would be a Constitution that I would like less than our current one, but a constitution that I would like more than our current one.

    The other ingredient we missed out on is more linguistic, racial, and religious diversity in the states. An American that included Quebec and hispanophone areas probably would have continued to be more federalist in fact.


    admin Reply:

    @ Vladimir — Thanks, you (and Federico) have sent me back to Szabo, re-opening a discussion which I wish I had caught the first time around (2007-8).

    This scrappy late-night post was flung up because I found the Kaplan essay so stunning. The tone is unlike anything I’d expect to stumble across in a mainstream opinion piece, suggesting that debates I would have situated at the extreme periphery of contemporary political consciousness are able to veer suddenly into public media traffic lanes and be received as unflinching realism rather than toxic insanity.


    Posted on April 18th, 2013 at 7:45 pm Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    @ Federico — These comments are masterpieces that will become indispensable reference points for me. Substantial response has to wait upon some serious digestion, so a couple of trivialities.
    — I’ve spent some time on Szabo, and hold his early posts in especially high regard. His emphasis on political property rights is hugely important, and Moldbug clearly drew from it.
    — I’m not sure whether I agree with the growing consensus that the Neocameral model is ultimately indefensible. When stripped of metaphors from political philosophy (kings and dictators), it simply suggests that statecraft is reducible to corporate governance, and that it would be better for this to be made explicit (‘formalized’) rather than left in the mendacious fog of Washcorp populism. It’s possible to resist Moldbug’s Hobbesian attraction to concentrated power without abandoning his attachment to unambiguous property rights, in the political sphere no less than the economic one. Neocameral ‘shareholders’ can be highly dispersed, whilst exercising their ‘sovereignty’ through a concentrated executive (CEO). Moldbug’s rhetoric militates against this, but does his thinking?


    Federico Reply:

    I find the meta-level arguments against such a scheme devastating.

    Firstly, what desirable polity has been designed from scratch? The American Revolution seems like the best example, but the revolutionaries certainly did not dispense with the English common law. Totalitarian states, however, break radically with the past. Hitler in Mein Kampf speaks ingenuously of how his Nazi party is already a shadow state, ready to slot in place as government of Germany.

    Secondly, is not Neocameralism burdened by complexity? There are many crucial steps in the deductive argument, each of which increases the probability of critical failure (even as the whole idea sounds more plausible).

    Thirdly, Moldbug argues that partial power corrupts, and absolute power does not—it is the dictator’s insecurity that births tyranny. My reading of evolutionary psychology is that power-lust is an open drive: unlike most human appetences, it is never sated. Tyranny is caused by the combination of insatiable striving with hierarchical control of awesome power that did not exist in the ancestral environment. So absolute power doesn’t corrupt absolutely, so much as it is a superstimulus that causes an already corrupt, dangerous human sub-agent to dominate the others inside the absolute monarch’s brain.

    The microscope reveals further flaws. I don’t see why elites would want to bring such a vision about, other than pure altruism, which one can never expect. I don’t find cryptographic weaponry—battleships, warm bodies, A-10 warthogs and M1 Abrams—plausible. I wouldn’t expect the shareholders to stay highly dispersed. I don’t believe that the shareholders, or the CEO, would be exclusively concerned with pecuniary gain.

    I think cryptographic weapons, if realised, could be broken. I’m not convinced that the cryptographic command chain provides a safe and stable means of succession, or allows malicious dictators to be rapidly checked. I think profit-motive could turn nasty given only small technological changes. I think near-to-medium–future technological changes might require adaptive styles of governance, so Neocameralism’s putative stability is as much bug as feature. I think the memetic forces necessary to any popular belief in Neocameralism, the creed of Carlyle’s able-man, might equally unleash a vanilla tyrant. I think there could be a highly undesirable feedback loop between coercive wealth redistribution and shareholder identity. And I see no credible, or safe incremental path between welfare democracy and Neocameralism.

    I think Moldbug has obliquely acknowledged this; he said recently,

    But when the impossible is rejected, the implausible becomes possible.

    This is subtly cynical, but I take it to mean that Neocameralism is impossible, so why not discuss the checks-and-balances approach? Since thug barons no longer have military power, this demands amongst other things highly sophisticated propaganda.


    admin Reply:

    My tendency here is to buckle rather than resist. Making a best defense for Neocameralism goes onto my project list, as an exercise, but once the decision has been made in favor of a scale-free model, the principle of the Patchwork — distributed power — flows back to undermine the case for local monopoly (at any level). Neocameralism draws all its functionality from Exit, which is to say — from the distributed order in which it is embedded. In this respect it is parasitic, draining more from political theory than it contributes.

    Have you articulated your critique of Neocameralism elsewhere? It’s definitely worth doing (some of your points here are so compressed that their full sense is hard to extract).

    I found Szabo’s Juristopia quite horrible (for reasons Moldbug brings out well) — there’s far too much human political discretion, and far too little economic control. It would inevitably lead to crypto-socialism, and even a thoroughly rotten Neocameral state would be preferable in my opinion (less of those ‘reasonable’ feedback-free monkey decisions). Even a viciously corrupt corporation is economically sensitive, and thus cybernetically subordinated. What controls a jury decision? The media, Moldbug argues, and that’s the Cathedral already virtually running things. So that certainly isn’t the way to go.


    Federico Reply:

    Neocameralism has such numerous and basic problems, in my opinion, that the local gravitational field in Moldbug’s court is distorted by a supermassive tennis ball. I await your defense with interest, but note that you have added one more excellent criticism.

    Devin Finbarr Reply:

    Excellent comments, Federico.

    I think Moldbug lack’s an appreciation for how bad the neocamerlist state could be. Modern corporations are ultimately subjects to a democratic influence and rule, and thus are much more well behaved than they would be in unconstrained. Even if the first generation of neocamelist corporations operate with some sense of Noblesse Oblige, over time, the corporations that most ruthlessly pursued profits would win. In the modern world, natural capital (arable land, dammable rivers, oil, lumber, real estate near jobs, water, etc) is more scarce and essential to survival than labor power. A tiny fraction of the world’s labor force could produce almost everything needed to survive, but a large portion of the world’s natural capital must be utilized. As a result, the owners of natural capital have a large amount of bargaining power. Without all the government-make-work jobs, wealth redistribution, etc, most people’s wages would be heading south towards subsistence or below.

    In a neocamerelist world, there would be an upper class of shareholders and executives, who would live in unimaginable wealth. They would continue to accumulate riches and live off their dividends without any taxes to even things out long term. Labor unions would be banned, any method of collective bargaining would be banned. All government make work would be abolished, throwing tens of millions into the labor pool, thus driving down wages further. Most people would work for $5 an hour at menial jobs. Only the top 10% highly skilled professionals such as engineers or surgeons would earn decent income. Prostitution and long term purchased marriage contracts would be legal. Most shareholders would own dozens or hundreds of wives, who would trade sexual access for financial guarantees. Most men would be sexually locked out and barely scraping by, if they even survive at all.


    Nicholas MacDonald Reply:


    Replace “shareholders and executives” with “party members and lucky entrepreneurs” and you have a pretty fitting description of how China operates today:

    -“continue to accumulate riches and live off their dividends without any taxes to even things out long term”

    Check, With their wealth off the books or in offshore accounts, combined with all the ways you can dodge taxes here…

    -“Labor unions would be banned”

    Check, “state-controlled unions” don’t count

    -“All government make work would be abolished, throwing tens of millions into the labor pool, thus driving down wages further.”

    Half a check – There’s still a lot of government make-work, but given how vast the labor pool is, it’s irrelevant (though I won’t deny that wages in China are rising).

    -“Most people would work for $5 an hour at menial jobs”

    Check. Given that for full-time work that comes out to about 5000 RMB a month, that’s being generous. Most new graduates in China don’t earn that much.

    -“Only the top 10% highly skilled professionals such as engineers or surgeons would earn decent income.”

    Check. Senior engineers, doctors, pilots, and other highly skilled professionals make the equivalent of a developed world middle-income living (car, house, vacations, school for the kids). Others (except the aforementioned overclass)… well… no.

    -“Prostitution and long term purchased marriage contracts would be legal.”

    Half a check. They’re not legal, but the former is ubiquitous, and the latter essentially exists in the form of er nai.

    -“Most shareholders would own dozens or hundreds of wives, who would trade sexual access for financial guarantees.”

    Check. Just look at the harems that many Chinese officials are keeping…

    -“Most men would be sexually locked out and barely scraping by, if they even survive at all.”

    Check. Every village in the Chinese interior can attest to this.

    For all these reasons, I can’t get excited about the idea of a neocameralist solution- I’ve already seen it in action, and it may very well be a cure worse than the disease. Not to say that China is the worst of all possible worlds, and I quite like Shanghai, but I think that there are better alternatives.

    Federico Reply:

    Further to the above (in moderation), Neocameralism also falls foul of a problem that Moldbug identified in Robin Hanson’s Futarchy: markets have to be trained.

    In the case of Futarchy, one cannot expect the prediction/decision market to be highly accurate until the smart predictors have repeatedly taken money from the dumb predictors. Likewise, should the initial distribution of shares in the realm be fair, we have an untrained market; the CEO needn’t maximise his profits, because most of the shareholders are easily fooled. One might expect this to change over time, but as Moldbug himself has argued, any such delay is unacceptably dangerous in statecraft.

    Should the initial distribution of shares be unfair the distribution is more likely to be excellent, but it might easily be skewed instead towards some disreputable constituency. And should the shares be auctioned, the empirical evidence of 90s Russia suggests that power would become concentrated in a few oligarchs.

    This is a relatively minor criticism, but it demonstrates Moldbug’s lack of self-scrutiny in comparison to his harsh treatment of Hanson and other potential sparring partners.


    Posted on April 19th, 2013 at 12:56 am Reply | Quote
  • Nick B. Steves Says:

    Kaplan is taking the principal too far. Expanding hegemony/heirarchy is like stretching a rubber band, it works great until it doesn’t. He acknowledges US hegemony post WWII, failing to mention we inherited directly from GB. Sure, but how pax has been the Pax Americana? Not very. And the lesser known and more polysyllabic of the world’s backwaters have gotten quite a bit worse since 1960. But that may have less to do with American hegemony per se than with the type of hegemon she is: uneven, conflicted, and often self-defeating mainly due to politics at home. Which suggests that the prescription may not so much be for more hegemony, but for less politics. Kill that cancer, and hegemony should flow like mountain streams.


    admin Reply:

    I’d go further right now (in the depths of Old Night) and say that Kaplan performs an invaluable reductio ad absurdam of the Hobbesian political solution. Nothing short of total global dominion will satisfy it.


    Posted on April 19th, 2013 at 1:34 pm Reply | Quote
  • Vladimir Says:

    Also, on a more fundamental level, one of the worst legacies of Moldbug’s half-baked theories of sovereignty is this widespread tendency to use “reactionary” as a synonym for absolutist centralized government. Admittedly, there are some historical examples of states with a genuine traditional and organic absolutist regime, in which consequently the right-left divide was between traditionalist absolutists versus liberal anti-absolutists. (Russia comes to mind.) However, in the overwhelming majority of cases, absolutist theory and practice was always about political gangsterism at worst, and at best radical revolution from above (whether by Henry VIII, Joseph II, or the modern Cathedral-run liberal state).

    Even in cases where liberals and other leftists advocated ostensibly libertarian positions, once in charge they would always and everywhere proceed to establish a far more absolutist regime than any reactionary monarch or aristocrat could ever dream of. (Absolutist theory of sovereignty is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition of leftism.) Max Stirner’s memorable description of the liberal state comes to mind:

    The monarch in the person of the “royal master” had been a paltry monarch compared with this new monarch, the “sovereign nation.” This monarchy was a thousand times severer, stricter, and more consistent. Against the new monarch there was no longer any right, any privilege at all; how limited the “absolute king” of the ancien régime looks in comparison! The Revolution effected the transformation of limited monarchy into absolute monarchy. From this time on every right that is not conferred by this monarch is an “assumption”; but every prerogative that he bestows, a “right.” The times demanded absolute royalty, absolute monarchy; therefore down fell that so-called absolute royalty which had so little understood how to become absolute that it remained limited by a thousand little lords.

    What was longed for and striven for through thousands of years,—to wit, to find that absolute lord beside whom no other lords and lordlings any longer exist to clip his power,—the bourgeoisie has brought to pass. It has revealed the Lord who alone confers “rightful titles,” and without whose warrant nothing is justified. “So now we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other god save the one.


    admin Reply:

    Yes, I’m fully persuaded (to the point of epiphany).


    Uriel Alexis Reply:

    glad to see Stirner ’round here


    Posted on April 19th, 2013 at 3:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • survivingbabel Says:

    I hope every neoreactionary is paying attention tonight. Two bombers let loose in the beating heart of the Cathedral, and fascism spontaneously broke out.


    Devin Finbarr Reply:

    An astute observation. What can explain this, and what conclusions can we draw?

    Some possible explanations/conclusions:

    a) The cathedral is not quite as suicidal and decadent as reactionaries think. Boston still maintains that agressive instinct that won it so much power in the first place.

    b) Boston is a mixed city – harvard students and professors are lefty’s, but the police still have a strong reactionary, hierarchical, law and order ethic. This quasi-fascist ethic might actually have grown stronger in the last few decades as strong police unions allow police to exist outside democratic or cathedral accountability.

    c) Conquest’s Law applies. Terrorists in a faraway land need to be “understood”. Terrorists that blow up kids in your town and throw grenades in your town need to be hunted down like vermin. Paramilitary swat teams in other cities are fascist. Police in your community are your neighbors that are risking your life to serve your community.

    d) The lines in this case were so clear, and the events happening so fast, that there was no way for progressives to spin it and thwart the police crack down.


    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    The lines in this case were so clear, and the events happening so fast, that there was no way for progressives to spin it and thwart the police crack down.

    Why would they have wanted to thwart it? They were hoping it was going to be an Aryan Christian. Although they were diappointed, I’m sure the perpetrator’s grievances will be given a most sympathetic and nuanced hearing. And <tsk> <tsk> don’t you know that violence never really solves anything? It’s a teachable moment for us all. Seems like win-win for the Cathedral.


    survivingbabel Reply:

    Some more brainstorming:


    f) In an emergency, everyone here just got with the program.

    No martial law required. The request was made, and the citizenry followed accordingly. No rioting, even from proles. I listened to the Cambridge and Boston police scanners for nearly a day, and there was literally nothing happening in town except pursuit of two terrorists. Spontaneously. Even the libertarians/anarchists begrudgingly accepted the situation, while making a big scene about it on Facebook.

    To be honest, what happened was so stark that my thinking on many subjects is going to need some tweaking. This was a game changer.


    a) If Boston/Cambridge is the capital of the Cathedral, sooner or later power will have to gravitate there. Further, if true, then the reactionary way forward would be to join the Cathedral and subvert it from within, since the power structure is pre-existing.

    b) There is a nation-like spirit in the city of Boston that helps social cohesion in times of crises. It’s not ethnic, nor is it religious. Yet it exists. Civic spirit could be a sustainable organizing principle for a modern city-state (which Boston/New England is, in a way).

    c) Existential danger has a marvelous focusing effect.

    d) This was truly a perfect storm of a terrorist attack. Very low actual body count, but extremely high symbolic value. One completely unsympathetic antagonist, who dies a deservedly gruesome death. His younger brother, evil but perhaps redeemable, after significant punishment and penitence. I mean, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Am I in Wag the Dog here?


    CyniCAl Reply:

    “To be honest, what happened was so stark that my thinking on many subjects is going to need some tweaking. This was a game changer.”

    Don’t they say, “Extreme cases make bad case law?”

    This was the best education I’ve had since I discovered Unqualified Reservations. Thanks for the time well spent.

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    One of the fundamentals of Western societies is the separation of Church and state. Washington will rule, and Boston will always be the one legitimating Washington’s rule and calling it to repentance.

    Posted on April 20th, 2013 at 1:51 am Reply | Quote

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